Car auctions in Japan are a great way for car importers around the world to source quality, low-mileage cars and other used cars at a good price.
However, in order to take full advantage of the opportunities that these Japanese car auctions offer you as a car dealer, you must make sure that you understand car inspection reports. As an informed buyer, you can be sure to screen out gold and avoid costly mistakes.
In this article, we’ll take a look at who produces these auction inspection reports and what you can find in them.
If you’re seriously considering buying a car at a Japanese car auction, you need to read on.
Quick start: What are these Japanese car auctions?
There are about 86 different auction sites in Japan. A typical day will see about 7,000 to 40,000 more used and other vehicles at these auctions around the country.
A leading Japanese car exporter will give his customers access to all these auctions through an online system. You may be a continent or two away from Japan, but sit down in front of your computer and instantly click on this huge SELECTION of RHD and LHD cars.
Type in a quote with a click and leave the rest to Japan’s car exporters. In a few weeks, the car will arrive at the port for your pickup.
A used car inspection at a Japanese car auction
Car auctions in Japan employ experienced mechanics to inspect all the vehicles they sell. In the case of most auctions, these inspectors work on-site, or in the exceptional case of Aucnet, at the car dealership.
Auction inspections cover all aspects of the car, from mechanical areas and chassis, to exterior and interior conditions. The car auction inspector’s approach is thorough, the only caveat being that they don’t drive cars faster than parking lots, and apparently they can’t disassemble vehicles to inspect really hard-to-reach places.
Auction Inspector’s Report
The car auction inspector writes his notes on the O-Kushon Hyo (auction list). He will use a combination of a scoring system, written descriptions and exterior diagrams to give readers a good idea of the condition of the used car.
Block auction grade
Car auctions in Japan assign an overall class to each car sold each week.
I do not recommend that you rely solely on this grade when considering whether or not to bid. You also need to check other details written by the inspector on the auction list.
(A good Japanese car exporter will give you a professional translator for these details.)
That is, the overall auction rating helps you narrow down the pool of potential bid candidates. Here’s a quick summary of the different grades:
7, 8, 9 or S-class – these are brand new cars with only mileage delivered.
Level 6 – This level can sometimes be equivalent to the level above, but cars with this auction level will usually have a little more mileage than just delivered.
Level 5 – These vehicles are in excellent condition, very close to new standards, but with thousands of kilometres on the odometer.
Class 4.5 – a car in good condition but capable of travelling tens of thousands of kilometres.
Level 4 – a good, sturdy car with a normal range of less than 100,000 km.
Level 3.5 – Higher mileage vehicles or vehicles that require some work to clean up.
Level 3 – a very high mileage car or a usually rough car.
Level 2 – Very rough vehicles, often with corrosion holes are the cause of this low grade.
Level 1 – Usually a heavily modified car, fitted with a different engine or gearbox, or equipped with an aftermarket turbocharger. Other possibilities are used cars with flooding or damaged fire extinguishers.
R, RA, A and 0 (zero) – these are cars that have been repaired in some sort of accident. At one end of the scale, repairs would be replacing individual panels due to a slight stop noise, while at the other end of the scale, vehicles that had to roll in an accident had almost all panels replaced.
Ungraded vehicles – These vehicles are sold by auction as is with little or no information about their condition. As a result, they are risky and could lead to additional costs if they are unable to drive or move.
Some of these grades are more common than others. For example, class 3.5 and 4 used cars will account for about 50 percent of the sales on any given day, while there are only a handful of Class 1 cars on the same day.
Internal and external grades
Japanese car auction inspectors assign letters to indicate a car’s internal and (sometimes) external condition. Again, these are very broad names and, like the overall auction classification, it is important to read the details of the inspector’s comments to get the full picture.
In essence, the “B” is considered “average condition, taking into account the age and mileage of the car.” Thus, an internal rating of “A” means internal is above average, and if it is “C” it is below average.
This is the exterior of the car, usually in the lower right corner of the auction list.
The auction inspector will mark it with a combination of letters and numbers to indicate damage to the exterior of the vehicle.
Here are some basic names:
A = scratches
U = dent
S = rust (from The Japanese word sabi)
C = corrosion
W = non-uniformity in panel (usually caused by panel jumping)
These letters are also usually followed by a number to indicate severity. So “1” is the least serious and “4” is the most serious. In fact, the Japanese are so picky about these things that something like “A1,” which means the smallest scratch, is barely visible to the naked eye.
Comments from Japanese car auction inspector
In addition to the above, inspectors will write comments about used cars when they review them. Obviously, the more upscale the car, the less likely it is to write additional information. As a result, tier 3 cars will have far more reviews than Tier 5 cars.
The exception might be a car with a lot of aftermarket parts for modifications and installations, which the inspector would then list on the auction list.
While it seems that the overall rating, internal and external rating, and the car map give you enough information to bid on, I strongly recommend that buyers make sure they get a professional translation of these review bids before making a final decision.
Cars rated 5 or above may not come as a surprise, but below that, the inspector may write something that could affect your decision to continue bidding. This is why it is important to find Japanese car exporters who can provide professional quality auction table translations.
Car auctions in Japan offer a large selection of used cars at a good price, and the auction inspection system means you can have a detailed understanding of the condition of any vehicle before bidding.
While buying a used car from halfway around the world may seem daunting, these Japanese car auction inspection reports make the process of finding a good car easier and more reliable.
About expert Authors
Stephen Munday has 12 years of experience living and working in Japan, including 5 years in Japan buying car auctions for clients around the world. His company, Integrity Exports, was set up to make buying a car at a Japanese car auction an easy and smooth experience.